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Phalaenopsis Questions

This is a discussion on Phalaenopsis Questions within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; I have to agree with Liz. It really sounds like you don't have enough light ...

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  1. #11
    TundraKev's Avatar
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    I have to agree with Liz. It really sounds like you don't have enough light in that room unless you are planning on using some kind of supplemental lighting.

    For the heck of it I just took a reading with my light meter of how many foot candles of light I have coming through my east and south windows right now. The blinds are all the way up, it's sunny outside, but the sun is no longer coming through the windows. About 10 inches from the window I get readings of between 600-800 fc. and it seems bright. That is not enough light for these plants. If you are talking about dim and shady conditions, I would have concerns.

    It's always difficult to give recommendations like this because describing light intensity is so subjective. It's almost better to try and find a light meter to borrow and take some measurements of what you have to work with.

  2. #12
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    Yeah, I forgot about my light meter, which cost maybe $18. I haven't used it in a long time, but when I was first setting everything up, it was really helpful to get a good idea of what the levels were at various times in the day. I just went outside and checked, and the light was between 2000 and 5000+ (off the meter) depending on whether it was a lower shelf or not; at either end, it's a lot more light than most books suggest. And, except for having to defend them from orchid-eating insects, the phals are all thriving.

  3. #13
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    Wow, Kev. I'm surprised. I've never used a light meter, but I grow everything with East exposure, and only supplement in the winter and occasionally on cloudy days at other times. I regularly bloom brassavola, oncidium, potinara, etc. which are all intermediate light (the growers I've gotten them from list them at 2000-4000 footcandles.) I'd be really surprised if that is all I get around noon on a sunny day after the direct morning sun has moved overhead. How accurate are these meters? Maybe the morning intensity is enough duration and they can handle much lower in the afternoon?

    Matt

  4. #14
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    You can also use your camera to measure the light intensity -- assuming you have a camera with manual settings (not just the point and shoot variety).

  5. #15
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    Matt

    My point is when you talk about bright, medium, low, dim, light etc. it is just so subjective. Some people think they have a sunny window if they only receive a hour of direct sunshine a day. You also have to take into consideration trees, buildings etc. blocking your exposure or the angle of the sun at different times of the year, or the size of your windows. You may have everything working in your favor. I don't know, I've never seen your grow area.

    See where I'm going?

    What's considered a shady location in a greenhouse or outdoors is very different from a "shady" location in your average room where the light is basically only coming from one direction. I think it's also common for people to think their growing area receives more light than what it probably does. You know, try to be as optimistic as possible.

    I'm not trying to discourage anyone from growing or trying an orchid, but what good does it do to set someone up for probable failure when it would be so easy and so inexpensive to add some supplemental lighting? I wish someone would have been honest with me when I first started growing orchids. According to all the books I read, I should be able to grow tons of stuff at my window sills with only natural light. I killed lots of plants trying that. You can provide all the other stuff: water, fertilizer, perfect growing medium, but if you don't have the light the plant is not going to grow.

    Matt, do you grow outside in the summer? If you do that can also provide enough of a boost to your orchids so that less than perfect light in the winter does not make your plants go into sudden decline.

  6. #16
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    As a reminder to what started this discussion. This is the statement that caused my concern:

    "It's fairly dark in here, since I don't care for sunlight myself, and if I do have sunlight, it's always diffused a great deal. Nice and shady, never bright."

    I guess it surprised me when I looked at this thread that it took until Liz to make serious mention of this, although Sadie did touch on it.

    It reminded me of another discussion in another place when someone asked what orchids would do well 12 feet from a west facing window. There must have been a good dozen posts naming all sorts of orchids that would like that. In a fit of frustration I finally said silk. Naturally, I was the bad guy.

  7. #17
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    Just a few (probably unnecessary) words in follow up. I don't really know of that many plants that will thrive and grow inside our homes without supplemental light, unless your home has a fabulous bay window, unobstructed from trees, awnings or buildings. Some will survive, but not grow, and almost certainly they won't bloom, which is why we grow orchids. I thought my living room was plenty bright, with big windows and a couple of big mirrors on the wall, and when I discovered orchids, I filled the living room with them, and killed most of them. The room was plenty bright for me, but not for plants.

    After that, I had the benefit of reading a bunch of posts by a really wise and insightful orchid veteren on another forum about the importance of sufficient light, almost above all else, to grow orchids successfully. Some people seem to get hung up on questions about how much to water, fertilize, and whether they should mist, but I think enought light is the key. I now grow them outside from mid-March to about November, and put them under the lights I talked about earlier the rest of the year, and everything changed. I have grown seedlings to blooming plants and rebloomed many phals since then.

    Put them on a table in the living room while they are blooming, so you can see and enjoy them more, but you really need better light to grow and bloom them.

  8. #18
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    Kev-

    I don't put any orchids out in the summer, other than for a few hours on watering day only. I hate dealing with bugs, and my first year in this townhouse I had several non-orchid plants come in with aphids. I only put out the bonsai, jade, cacti, and the rosemary bush. Sometimes the wandering jews, hoya, ficus, and schefflera, but not for long periods.
    I think it must be the size of my area....it is full size double sliding glass doors with an additional foot of transom window above. There is only one tree in my .00000001 acre yard, and it doesn't ever block the light coming in because of its placement. I keep the screen off except June-August. And my upstairs windows where I grow the phaelenopsis also get all but one layer of glass removed to prevent loss of intensity on the way in. Clearly I'm getting enough light, because my stuff grows like 'weeds', including some high light tropicals.
    Your post about foot candles, however, really has me interested. Do you have anywhere you'd recommend here in the cities to purchase an inexpensive but accurate light meter device? I'd like to see just what I'm getting at different times of the day, and months of the year.
    Matt

  9. #19
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    Matt

    Your situation is very different from mine and that probably does make all the difference. I'm glad you mentioned the screen thing. I always take mine off for the winter because they really do block a lot of light.

    It's funny that your experience with bugs has been so different from mine. I have virtually no bug problems outside. About the only critter that's been a problem (other than squirrels) has been grasshoppers and then only sometimes in late summer. I just recently had a huge aphid problem on some non-orchid stuff I was overwintering indoors. I put them outside and within a day, all the aphids were gone. This was before it turned cold again.

    I bought my light meter mail order, so I don't know who carries them around here. I think you would be surprised at the readings if you had one.

    Liz - are you talking about Howard? If so, he really did make me "see the light" so to speak. I learned a lot from him.

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    I got a light meter for $30 from Cal-West orchids: http://www.orchid-supplies.com/misc_...ies.html#meter.

    It's very useful for quantifying light levels, but before you spring for one, consider Kev's very good point. At what time will you measure the light level? If you have a catt that wants 3,000 foot candles, but your window's narrow and the sun only hits the plant at that intensity for an hour, what does that mean? If you have less bright sun, all day long, are you better off?

    We don't need simple intensity - that's like voltage in electrical work, it can change over time. We need to know wattage. Watt total volume of foot candles (ie, avg foot candles over a specified number of hours) do these beasties need each day. Only then do light meters help us choose ideal locations.
    Julie

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